Thiago revels in role as Jurgen Klopp’s midfield maestro as Liverpool new boy outpasses EVERY Chelsea player despite only playing 45 minutes… this cameo offered a tantalising glimpse of what the next dimension for the Reds might be
- Thiago showed his class with an impressive 45-minute display for Liverpool
- The Premier League champion’s new arrival was imperious in the second half
- Despite playing just one half, Thiago made more passes than any Chelsea player
- Jurgen Klopp was thrilled with the impact his recent signing made on the game
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‘I was created in Barcelona and every midfielder must touch the ball. You develop your own skills but the one thing you must do is move the ball. You get on the ball as much as possible and you make the team play.’ Thiago Alcantara, December 2015.
You cannot say Liverpool’s latest signing does not practise what he preaches. Thrust into an immediate debut at Stamford Bridge on the back of just two training sessions, Thiago was effortlessly true to his principles.
He explained his philosophy to Sportsmail two years after he had joined Bayern Munich. Thiago’s passion for passing came pouring out and he illustrated why he was regarded as Spain’s natural successor to Xavi.
Thiago Alcantara revelled in his debut outing for Liverpool after an impressive 45 minute spell
On a sultry afternoon in west London, Thiago made a deep first impression. Yes, there are bigger challenges ahead and there was a silly concession of a penalty. Controlling the game against 10 men is different to dealing with the rough and tumble of the division’s more combative sides.
But take note of the numbers: Thiago had 89 touches after he was introduced for Jordan Henderson, Liverpool’s captain having been withdrawn to a protect a tight thigh, and made 75 passes – more than any Chelsea player managed in the entire 90 minutes.
OPTA have only been keeping statistics of these kind since 2003 but no player who appeared for just 45 minutes has recorded a higher total. This cameo offered a tantalising glimpse of what the next dimension for Jurgen Klopp and Co might be.
The new boy was introduced at half-time and registered more passes than any Chelsea player
The 29-year-old showed he can fulfil his role as Jurgen Klopp’s midfield pass master
This was not a team who needed major surgery. To say so would be disrespectful to sentries such as Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum, for instance, the midfielders who have played every big game and took Liverpool to consecutive Champions League finals.
The right addition at the right time, however, can have a profound effect and it was easy to see in those first few moments after Thiago had been introduced what he will do for Liverpool and the impetus he will give to their play, with pinball passing.
Everything seems to be done with one touch, nearly always forwards. His head is constantly up, his eyes darting around the pitch to see which avenue will open next. There is ingenuity in his mind, creativity in his feet and Chelsea had no idea how to close him down.
The Spaniard could well prove to be the perfect addition at the perfect time for the champions
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was thrilled with the impact his new signing made on the game
Little wonder, then, that Thiago was engulfed in a bear hug by Klopp at the final whistle.
Klopp is not a difficult man to read. His emotions make him an open book and in recent weeks he has been a little irascible at times. His impatience for Liverpool to find their groove has been obvious.
Here, he was more serene, a man who knew things were starting to come to the boil. Liverpool swatted Chelsea aside almost contemptuously, to put down a marker for what they want to achieve, and Thiago’s presence helped them find their equilibrium.
‘He was top,’ Klopp enthused. ‘Top timing, I would say. He is not used to our thinking yet and Bayern played differently to us. Defensively it was tricky for him but with the ball, he wants to pass it.’
He certainly does. The more he gets attuned and the more Liverpool find their rhythm, the more potent they will become. As first days go, it was very encouraging for Klopp – and, you suspect, very worrying for those who want to topple the champions.